The philosophy of masks

On the website of “Philosophy Salon” on July 9, 2020, an article by Simon Pozak was published, entitled “What is a mask?” In the article, Pozac used Derrida and Foucault’s relevant expositions to provide a philosophical explanation of the meaning of masks during the “new crown epidemic”.

At present, the “new crown epidemic” is still raging around the world-from March to May, more than 50 countries require their citizens to wear masks, including Venezuela, Qatar, Cameroon, Austria, etc.; on the other hand, the United Kingdom , Singapore and the United States are urging citizens not to buy and wear masks to ensure adequate supply of relevant resources for medical workers.

But Pozak believes that nothing can be more uncertain than the role masks currently play. Compared with medical-grade masks, the protective ability of general cloth masks has not yet been proven, and people often wear them because they wear them. Cloth masks feel that everything is going well. So instead of paying attention to more important hygiene details, such as hand washing; inappropriate masks need more adjustments, which actually increases the contact between hands and face. The World Health Organization says that healthy people wearing masks can greatly reduce the risk of infection. But the question is, who is healthy? Who can rule? The emergence of asymptomatic infections makes it difficult for us to use a single standard to judge whether people around us carry the virus.

In this regard, the “new crown” virus is very much like the “ghost” described by Derrida: no matter how we stare at it, we cannot determine how much it stares at us, or rather, the more we stare at it, the more we become It was “covered” by our partial and temporary observation technique, and as a result, it escaped our gaze more and more and strengthened its ability to scare us. Therefore, contrary to Derrida’s “face mask”, masks make us “seen”, but not necessarily “seen.”

On the other hand, when discussing “panopticism,” Foucault pointed out that the origin of modern disciplinary power is related to the implementation of quarantine measures in the seventeenth century. Foucault further distinguished between the literary tradition concerning the plague and the coming disciplinary and supervisory power. In his view, the former is related to the wearing or taking off of the mask-in a carnival atmosphere, the law is suspended, there are no taboos, time is frozen, the flesh is mixed with no distinction between high and low, and everyone removes the mask. , Abandoning the legal identities and images that were used to recognize each other in the past, revealing a completely different truth; the latter means strict isolation, which means managing the minutiae of daily life through a complete hierarchical network; there is no wear and tear The mask removed is only the schedule of the individual’s “real” name, “real” location, “real” body, and “real” condition.

Combining the above analysis, Pozak believes that contrary to popular theories, the relish and diverse presentation of mask styles and styles proves not our creativity and uniqueness: rather, it is precisely the “new crown” virus. Uncertainty marks our position-as the subject of the “new crown”, as the subject of authority who can look directly into our eyes.

Therefore, masks make us open our eyes to see how we are stared at by others.

Two interesting historical books on the meat processing industry
On July 23, 2020, the “Boston Review” website published Troy Vites’s new book “Pork City: American Animals, Standardized Life, and Factory Farms” against Alex Blanchett and Thomas · A review of Fleischmann’s new book “The History of Animals in the Rise and Fall of East Germany”, entitled “Pigs and Capitalism.”

“Pork City” is an ethnographic study of modern factory farms. According to the author, Blanchett, the meat processing industry is a typical representative of contemporary capitalism. It is similar to the pork that it handles. Industry is like a huge but weak monster, wandering on the edge of ecological and financial ruins. For example, like other capitalist industries, meat processing plants also have a distinction between manual labor and mental labor: management relies on abstract sampling, data, tables, inspections and other quantitative knowledge—they don’t see individual livestock. There is only an abstract herd; the knowledge of the working class seems more direct and intuitive, but the division of labor also makes it fragmented. This is most obvious in the slaughter line: the “efficient” Taylor system allows workers to They perform their duties like machines, step by step, and repeat operations. On the one hand, they have no time or ability to think about the operation of the entire industry. In this regard, the meat processing plant is indeed not much different from the assembly line in “Modern Times”.

Fleischmann looked at the meat processing industry in East Germany. In his opinion, factory farms were not the result of a specific economic system. “The Animal History of the Rise and Fall of East Germany” focuses on Eberswald, the once largest pork processing place in the world. It carefully traces the history of the rise and fall of the communist “industrialized pork”, and eloquently explains its relationship with East Germany. The relationship between the rise and fall of socialism. As an environmental historian, Fleischmann paid particular attention to the unstable but tough competitor role played by East Germany in the industrialized agricultural competition: it gambled in the early days to convert cheap imported grains into pork. And hard currency to speed up the country’s industrialization process and meet the consumption needs of residents. Eventually, the nitrate pollution of livestock manure in the countryside and drinking water throughout the country gave birth to the environmental movement in East Germany.

Vites pointed out that the world in which humans live today is increasingly a world where animal diseases can easily spread among humans. At this time, for any vision of social justice, unity across species is Vital. In this regard, socialism that can sympathize with other creations seems to be the future hope of mankind, because it can transform a certain impersonal industrial relationship into ethical care between people-with the help of Fleischmann described that we can see that even in cruel slaughterhouses, this is always reflected.

The legacy of “modernization theory”
On June 26, 2020, the Los Angeles Review of Books website published Ajun Apadulli’s 2020 book “Light of Failure: Why the West Fights against Ivan Krasteev and Stephen Holmes The book review of “Lost the Democracy War” is entitled “Nine Lives of Modernization Theory.”

Appadulai said that he was very disappointed with this acclaimed work written by a famous artist. The reason is that the book has major problems in the following three aspects.

First of all, the book defines Eastern Europe after 1989 as the “emulation age”. This is both a stereotype and non-historical. What it maps is just the oldest modernization theory, that is, at least in 1945. After that, the whole world was full of envy of Western modernity, so they obsessively followed suit. In the view of modernization theorists, the success of the new type of countries in the postcolonial world must be attributed to the successful imitation of the liberal West; and the failure of the failed countries is all because of their long-existing and incurable society Diseases, such as hereditary system, nepotism, corruption, etc. But this theory cannot explain why Western liberal modernity has gradually become a victim of its own contradictions, such as the racial problems in the United States and the welfare state in Europe. On the other hand, the author did not see this point, that is, before and after the great changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, how Western powers used all their extremes to promote their political and economic interests in the region, including turning to belief in the so-called ” In this regard, it is difficult to say whether the “following” mentioned by the two authors is entirely an active behavior, such as aid and trade conditional on the free market, and the continuous penetration of think tanks such as the World Bank and the Central Intelligence Agency into the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Second, the two authors also believe that Eastern Europe after 1989 can represent the entire underdeveloped world from Latin America to Southeast Asia. But even if you only have a superficial understanding of Latin America, Africa and Asia after 1989, you will think that the commonality of the Third World imagined by Nehru, Nasser, Tito, Sukarno and others in the late 1960s is nothing but a mirage. -What they actually show is rather diverse political possibilities. In fact, the Eastern European countries that really meet the needs of the two authors may only be Poland and Hungary, but even for these two countries, the real crux is not the failure of imitating the West, but the fabricated fear of immigration. ——Can these two countries really represent Eastern Europe and thus the entire underdeveloped world?

Thirdly, intellectuals around the world have already reflected on the core view of the two authors, that is, the theory of “imitating the West”. In Africa, many writers and thinkers have criticized the elites’ imitating the West; in China and Japan As in other East Asian countries, people have long been arguing about the disadvantages of simply copying the West; Indian intellectuals have also discussed the pros and cons of the theory of “imitating”. So the simple fact is that in the past half a century, in many parts of the world, how to critically evaluate “emulating the West”—whether by means of technology transfer, modernization, democratization, or “catching up”—is a core issue. Issue, and the two authors did not say a word about it.

Therefore, in Appadulai’s view, the book rather reveals the many legacy of the so-called “modernization theory” once again, and we must be aware of this.